Some take to the casino is search of elegance and sophistication or quiet calculation and strategy. Some punters prefer the debauched crowds and cacophonous commotion of the Craps table. When you step into the pit, it shouldn’t take long to find the nearest craps table – just listen out for the cheers and jeers as the shooter throws the bones and chips are won and lost.
How to play
Craps is a relatively straightforward game complicated by a perplexing play table and shrouded in slang which can be nigh-on impenetrable to the inexperienced. Luckily, of the several and varying bets available to a player on the table, a handful are clearly more profitable in the long run, and many can be disregarded – more detail will be given in the strategy section.
Most Craps tables have two identical betting areas around which the punters stand. In the middle of the table is the playing area where chips are placed to bet on the action. Four supervisors typically staff the Craps table. In the centre resides the boxman, he or she is in charge of overlooking distribution of chips. The stickman stands opposite the boxman, they act as a kind of Master of Ceremonies, announcing the result of each role and encouraging players to get their bets in. They are named for the stick with which they are equipped to push the dice and chips around the table. One further dealer stands at each end of the table, often working to place bets for the players. The abundance of attendants is testament to just how quickly money can change hands at the Craps table and how furious the action can be become.
Central to craps is the throwing of the dice. At any given moment, there will be one shooter, the name for the player who makes the roll. Each shooter assumes the post for one full round, following which the responsibility rotates. To begin the round, the stickman will push five dice toward the shooter, who must reach with one hand only to select the two dice that look the luckiest. Of course, all dice are identical, but craps is rife with superstition and routines intended to bring good fortune.
As a newcomer approaches the table, it’s key to know how the dice are thrown. It is imperative that both dice be thrown simultaneously, and they should rebound off the far wall of the table. Casinos may be lenient with new shooters on the latter rule, but it will eventually be strictly enforced. Dice must always be thrown with one hand only, and should a dice fly out of the area of play, it is replaced. Often, superstitious players on a hot streak will demand that the same die be returned to them.
Before a round begins, at least one bet must be placed by the shooter. This bet could be called Pass, which is essentially a bet that the shooter will ‘win’ the round, or Don’t Pass, which means the shooter will lose. How a round plays out and which bets are winners depends on the numbers that come up on the dice. A shooter is free to bet on the Don’t Pass line.
Each round is broken into two stages – the come out and the point. The come out rolls are the opening rolls of each round. In the come out, a roll of 2, 3 or 12 is a losing roll, and to roll one of these totals is to crap out. When the shooter craps out, players who wagered on Pass lose their bet, and players who bet Don’t Pass win the round (a role of 12 is technically a push on the Don’t Pass bet). If the come out roll totals 7 or 11, this is a natural. Here, Pass wins immediately, and Don’t Pass loses.
When another total is rolled (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10), the Point is established as the total rolled, and the next stage of the round begins. Once a point is set, the shooter must roll the same total again before rolling another 7. If the point is hit before the 7, the Pass wins. If the 7 is rolled first, Don’t Pass is the winning bet – this is called sevening out and ends the shooter’s time at the helm.
This is the essential structure of craps, and is all you need to understand before stepping up to the table and bet the pass line. There are, of course plenty more bets than can be placed by those who seek more action.
The fundamental bet to craps is the Pass bet. While it’s counterpart – the Don’t Pass bet – is equally essential, it is often termed betting wrong, or betting the dark side. This is because it is normally betting against the majority of players at the table. Though all is indeed fair in love and war, players looking for the most convivial atmosphere will normally stick to the Pass line.
Once the shooter has come out, more money can be placed on a similar bet called a Pass Odds bet, or a Don’t Pass Odds. Pass Odds is a bet that the point will be rolled before the shooter sevens out. Don’t Pass is a bet on the contrary, and that a seven is coming before the point.
There is also a bet called the Come bet, and its opposite number, the Don’t Come bet. These are identical to the Pass and Don’t Pass bets, but they allow a new point total to be established for the individual bettor only. Again, players can kick up the action by placing Come and Don’t Come Odds bets.
During play, there are also Multi Roll and Single Roll Bets. Multi Roll bets are similar to those already discussed in that a player bets whether any specific total will or will not be rolled before the next 7 is thrown. Single Roll bets are in the middle of the table, and are always placed by the stickman. They tend to be bets for smaller amounts of money that win or lose with just one roll of the dice.
The final nuance to play is the working, and non-working bet. This gives players the opportunity to place a bet on the table, but have it switched off (not working) for a specific roll. This is a way to satisfy players who play on their instinct for the result of a specific roll without taking the chips on and off the table constantly. Most different bets can be switched off, but Pass line bets and Come bets are always on once they are placed on the board.
With so many different bets to be placed – far more than are listed above – the prospect of risking your hard earned money at the craps table may be a bridge too far for some.
However, for the bewildered, there is good news. The vast majority of bets leave punters at a substantial disadvantage. Veterans of the craps table, in spite of their suspicions and superstitions, will not bet on them at all. The best odds are found on the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come Bets, followed very closely the Pass Line and Come bets (the small shortfall is perhaps made up for by the camaraderie in betting the Pass Line). Additionally, the Pass Odds bets and the Come Odds bets, along with their Don’t Pass/Don’t Come Odds, pay out at their true odds. This is almost unheard of, and means that the casino makes no money at all in the long run from these bets. They are most likely the best bets that you can make on the entire Casino floor.
As with all games at the Casino, certain players have always sought to gain an advantage and a mathematical edge on the house. In Craps, this comes in the form of dice control. This is a method of throwing the dice which allows the shooter to better control the outcome of each roll, and therefore to overcome to small house advantage on certain throws. Whether or not dice control is possible to replicate with any consistency is dubious, but the theory certainly has its proponents.
Where To Play
Though Craps is held in very high esteem in Las Vegas, on British shores, dice games are much more elusive. London’s Hippodrome Casino advertises a game which runs at favourable odds with Pass line bets starting at £5, and single roll bets at just £2. High rollers who seek higher stakes will of course be accommodated.